Wildlife surveying has become increasingly popular on a domestic scale over recent years, with individuals and even communities donning the binoculars, identifying the local biodiversity and creating a wildlife haven in their gardens or towns.
Taking a responsible approach to local plant and wildlife might have become a hobby for many, but from a construction and land development perspective, taking an ecologically responsible approach has become a legal necessity.
The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 make it an offence to capture, kill or disturb a European protected species and their breeding ground and if urban wildlife have taught us anything, it’s that even the most seemingly baron landscapes can host an abundance of wildlife.
If you’ve recently been introduced to the legislation in place then it can understandably be confusing even knowing where to start. Initially you may need to determine the biodiversity on your site by conducting an ecology assessment.
The Phase 1 Habitat Survey is usually the first port of call and you can find out more about this by contacting a reputable environmental consultancy to determine the ecology on the site and assess the impacts of any proposed development.
The protected species can vary in a habitat depending on the season and as we ease out of spring and into the summer months, we identify the wildlife that is currently ripe for analysis.
See if you can spot any of these species, your survey will pick them up easily, but it’s always worth taking the time to appreciate some of these Great British rarities.
Several specie surveys you should be carrying out
Flickering across the sky at twilight, bats are rarely seen as anything other than a quick dart across the skyline during dusk, enjoyable to see, but always illusive. Many people are often surprised to find that bats are a protected species and this means that the roosts are also protected (even when the bats are absent). If protected species aren’t taken into account in planning applications then the application will be turned down, making a bat survey an essential requirement.
A bat survey involves a thorough inspection of buildings and trees to uncover those tell-tale signs of bats. Droppings, insect remains and indicative marks all point to bat roosts. An echolocation survey is the next stage in the process and this will be carried out at dawn and/or dusk. While the first stage of the survey can be carried out throughout the year, the echolocation surveys have to be carried out between May and September, making now an ideal time to carry out your survey.
Great Crested Newt
The Great Crested Newt is one of the most declining amphibian species in Europe and despite the fact it is still relatively common in the UK, the species is heavily protected. The Local planning Authority will expect a Great Crested Newt Survey on land with water sources or land within a 500m distance of a water source.
It is therefore imperative that a survey is carried out as early as possible in the planning process, the newt isn’t that restrictive with its habitat, and even if you think you are a reasonable distance from the nearest water source, it’s always worth bearing even the most unexpected species in mind. The survey period begins in March and ends around June so it’s well worth conducting a survey as soon as possible in order to avoid delayed construction.
If you have a pond in your garden, then frogs and toads are probably a common site for you and they’re also surprisingly resilient, often venturing a reasonable distance away from water and popping up on lawns and footpaths! The Natterjack toad is a rare and protected occupant of dune and heathland habitats and requires a licence before you tamper with the species or environment in any way. The natterjack toad looks like a common toad at first glance, however you can tell it apart from its common cousin by the pale stripe running down its back.
Adders may be a ‘widespread’ UK species but they’re a species that experts are highly concerned about all the same. For most people seeing a snake in the UK outside of the zoo would terrify – these reptiles are not something we’re used to seeing outside of zoo – hence why they need such vigorous conservation. The adders emerge in late spring, so keep a look out and don’t panic if you do see one of these fascinating creatures!
In the UK we’re lucky enough to have an abundance of indigenous wildlife and consequently the species outlined here are by no means an exhaustive list. But as we emerge into summer these species are more likely to be seen and in some cases need to be taken into a survey account NOW.
Of course spotting wildlife, especially the rarer varieties, can be almost impossible, but a phase 1 survey will highlight any species requiring protection even if you can’t see the signs.
If you happen to see an adder around your home, what are you going to do? Capture and protect them or kill them? Be specific please. 🙂
Victoria is writing on behalf of REC Resource and Environmental Consultancy Ltd.